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Why it’s not a good idea for students to travel this Christmas

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Say goodbye to 2021. Source: Ed Jones / AFP

It’s the festive season! Depending where you are, snow would be covering every crevice with the occasional gruesome snow angel crime scene left by children. Whether it will be a winter wonderland or not for you, it would be nice to go back home for Christmas and spend time with the whole family. Unfortunately for all of us, that one creepy uncle, COVID-19, is back in town and he’s bringing presents in the form of the Omicron variant.

Yeah, maybe your  home for Christmas plans are ruined again this year but before you book anything, it’s best to get professional opinions on the matter.

An actual doctor’s opinion

Despite advice from government officials like Boris Johnson advising citizens to not cancel Christmas plans, doctors and other health officials have stated otherwise. So, before you start booking your tickets home for Christmas, let’s listen to an actual certified professional’s opinion.

Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, suggests people should reduce their social contact as fears grow that existing vaccines will prove less effective against the Omicron variant.

“Of course our behaviours in winter – and particularly around Christmas – we tend to socialise more, so I think all of those will need to be taken into account,” the former deputy chief medical officer for England told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“So I think [the solution is] being careful, not socialising when we don’t particularly need to, and particularly going and getting those booster jabs.”

With 22 cases of Omicron now confirmed in the UK, senior scientists suggested it would be wise for people to cut back their social activities.

Professor John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage)  said: “Reducing our social contacts now will slow the establishment of this new virus in our country. It will also help reduce the spread of the Delta virus which we are still struggling with. If you are intending to socialise or go to the office then the risk can be significantly reduced by taking a lateral flow test beforehand,” raising concerns that the government is not going far enough.

STAT’s survey with 28 public health experts

STAT has conducted a survey with 28 public health experts, asking them on how they would react to certain social or public situations.

Do note that this survey was done on Nov. 10, 2021, before news of the Omicron variant surfaced.

As shown from this chart, some experts favour attending events while others don’t. Now since this survey was done before Omicron’s announcement, the chart may look drastically different due to dangers posed by the new variant of concern.

To read the full article on the study, click here.

Going home for Christmas

Despite the advice from doctors and health officials, there’s actually no stopping you from going back home to your loved ones to celebrate Christmas. You should, however, be responsible enough to take the necessary precautions.

If you’re travelling back to the UK for instance, the government has faced calls to reintroduce pre-departure COVID tests and only allow passengers to board flights back to the UK if they produce a negative result. UK residents arriving from red listed countries will need to pay 2,285 pounds to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. These precautions are implemented in an attempt to curb the spread of Omicron.

Note that only UK citizens and residents are able to enter after returning from a red list country; anyone else will be refused entry at the border.

What’s the verdict?

The big question still stands, should you go home for Christmas? Well, if you’re uncomfortable with the current COVID situation and would like to stay where you are for the sake of yourself and your family, please do. If you’re really feeling homesick and want to visit your family and friends this Christmas, best to take all necessary precautions and get yourself vaccinated and tested before you make your way back home.